My Best Little Heroin Buddy

The Barbarian Invasions makes no secret of its central metaphor - comparing the history of nations to the progress of our own lives, how what challenges the most is the uninvited, unexpected change that changes everything, that no matter how hard we struggle against the hardships of the world, things remain fundamentally the same.

The film centers on Rémy, who has lead a life of study and irresponsibility, and now is dying of some unspecified disease. His son Sébastien, who has proved very successful in futures markets, flies in from London and endeavors to make his father's remaining days the most comfortable. Their relationship is cool, but Sébastien takes the task as his own, throwing around money like there's no tomorrow, which proves quite an advantage in dealing with the Canadian health care system (Rémy Girard, who plays the lead, assures us the movie exaggerates some, but that there are financial issues as the country ages). Sébastien organizes Rémy's friends to visit, gets a private room on an empty floor, even surreptitiously pays some of his students to come. When the pain becomes too much, he arranges for a junkie friend to provide his father with Heroin (something more effective than morphine, as it turns out). Together, they all negotiate the path toward death.

My summary hardly does justice to the story - and I'm leaving a lot of the details out on purpose. The movie is one of ideas, which is a delight to see amidst all the Hollywood claptrap, but it's also one of feelings and values. The lead character is in bed for so much of the film, but we hardly notice for there's always something going on. A picture like this so often descends into mourning and meaningless sentiment, yet The Barbarian Invasions puts a dignified face on the process of death, as well as life, one that isn't just a false front, but rather a muted celebration of what we find important in our own lives.

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